Vitamins and minerals (when not consumed in food form) are classified by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as dietary supplements. Amino acids, botanicals, herbs, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues and glandulars, and metabolites, are also classified as dietary supplements. Many athletes believe they do not get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet and wonder if they should start taking some sort of supplement; while other athletes are on a constant quest to find the latest diet or supplement that will give them a competitive edge. The reality is that making wise food and beverage choices are crucial for peak performance and contribute to endurance and repair of injured tissues. A good working knowledge and understanding of foods that provide essential nutrients will aid in an athlete reaching their greatest potential.Athletes have increased energy needs, which allows for more opportunities to obtain the nutrients they need through a balanced diet composed of a variety of natural foods. Most sports medicine professionals agree that unless an individual has a nutrient deficiency, supplementation may not improve athletic performance.
However, the athlete who takes a simple one-a-day type of vitamin or mineral that does not exceed the nutrient levels of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)/Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), is probably not doing any harm. An athlete should consult with his or her physician, or other health care professional, to determine whether vitamin and mineral supplementation is needed to maintain optimal health.
Nutrients that may be low in an athlete’s diet are listed in Table 11. Choose a variety of foods in each food category to ensure that all nutrients areincluded in your diet.Athletes should always choose food over dietary supplementation. The body needs more than 40 nutrients every day and supplements do not contain all the nutrients that are found in food. Supplements cannot make up for a poor diet or poor beverage choices.Natural foods contain a matrix of various nutrients that researchers are continuing to discover and learn more about. Often individual nutrients don’t work as effectively when isolated in a pill or supplement form.Self-prescribed supplement users should heed overdose warnings and look for symptoms of toxic levels of supplementation, such as diarrhea, skin rashes that do not fade, and unexplained joint pain. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be toxic when misused. Unlike water soluble vitamins in which excess amounts are excreted in the urine, fat soluble vitamins are stored in body fat and remain in the body.